Soldering and Osmanlı Türkçesi vs. Orman Türkçesi

This weekend, Jeremy's parents, Annette and Wayne came to visit and in spite of the massive spring downpour, we had a wonderful time traipsing around Istanbul for a few days, before they all took off to go to Capadocia for Jeremy's spring break. Friday night, we explored an area near Sultanhamet that Jeremy and I had never been to before. We found a small Greek fish restaurant in a area with tons of fish restaurants that Annette and Wayne had been to before. There, we enjoyed a pretty traditional meal starting with meze and continuing with grilled fish and of course, rakı. Musicians, who were making their way around the neighborhood came in and gave us an earful of upbeat Turkish tunes that had us shimmying our shoulders as we ate our meal.

The next morning, we took them to our favorite breakfast spot- Van Kahvaltı, where we ordered a massive spread of sweet and savory breakfast treats. After breakfast, we avoided the puddles as best we could (although I, for one, wasn't too successful) to get to Dolmabahçe Palace, where we were herded on the guided tour, from room to room- one more lavish than the next. Although the over-the-top Rococo style of the decorations in the palace aren't particularly my taste, I was in awe of the beautiful craftsmanship of much of the furniture- with detailed inlays of mother of pearl and ivory and the floors were stunning- various types of wood inlaid to create intricate geometric patterns. After the visit, we took a few hours to relax, dry off and warm up at home. We ended the day eating delicious Armenian food at Jash in Cihangir, while being serenaded by the tunes of a wistful accordion player.

On Sunday, we all met again for lunch and a brief walk, and then it was time for me to go to jewelry class. I had exchanged a few emails with my teacher about purchasing a torch, to use at home, but the response had been a little cryptic and I was curious as to whether or not it would happen. As I walked down the small street flanking the Hagia Sophia, I heard someone calling my name, which shook me from my solitary stupor. One of the artists from Caferağa Medresesi called me over to the tiny gallery next to the main building. He was wearing an apron and rubber gloves, and was getting ready to do an ebru demonstration for a group of tourists coming through. I had never been inside the gallery and got to see some of his ebru pieces- one, whose sandy yellow and brown swirls looked like a surrealist desert landscape. He invited me to make a piece and and to refresh my memory on how to make a flower design. Since I had 20 minutes until the class, I thought 'why not?'

I slipped on a rubber glove, took the pigment-full brush, and started to tap it against my finger, like I'd done in the workshop in the fall. The red dots of color landed and spread, the hue of the pigment losing its original intensity, and starting to create the first of many layers of ground. I picked the next brush- purple, strained the color out against the sides and got ready to repeat the same tapping process, already feeling the therapeutic effects of painting on water. By the time I had tapped out the pigment on that brush, a group had funneled in and my friend printed the beginnings of my piece, so that he could be ready for his demo. 

He invited me to come back and print when I come back from spring break in a few weeks, and I am very excited to do so. For spring break, I'll be going to Florence to visit my cousins. One of the things that I plan on doing is to visit some paper marbling studios, to observe the technique there and compare it to what I've seen here. The Italians got the art from Turkey, but don't add any of the floral designs that Turkish artists do. It will be interesting to see the Florentine paper again, now that I've seen the process here in Turkey. 

Entering the studio's courtyard, I immediately spotted the family, who takes the class with me and headed towards them. They were all squeezed snugly in together on one bench and well-bundled against the cold. As has become routine now, we chewed the fat, while waiting for the class before ours to let out, the usual mix of English and Turkish. For some reason (maybe it was the 5 minute ebru meditation), I was inspired and sentences (well, phrases) came out coherently enough for them to give me the thumbs up and say that Turkish class is "çok iyi" (very good). They asked about Jeremy's parents. It seems as though here in Turkey, one has to make an enormous effort to please potential in-laws. I've heard that a future wife has to get a nod of approval on her Turkish coffee, before the green light can be given for a wedding to proceed. They were teasing me about it last week, when they'd found out they were coming, and wanted to know how it had gone. Who knows what types of strained scenes they imagined and I laughed to myself, because I can't imagine anyone more laid back than Annette and Wayne. 


As we chatted, we a voice cut through the hallway: "Mr. T!"... It was our teacher. Class had let out and it was our turn to file in. Ever since the first few weeks of class, he has had a play on words that makes him chuckle every time he says it, and has become a bit of a ritual in class. He calls out "Mr. T." and the response is "Apple tea." I'm not sure how it came about, but somehow, it stuck. We filled the classroom, headed to our individual work spaces around the central table, and got our projects out. I had been working on a square pendant for the last four weeks and it just needed for the stone to be set and to be polished, before being finished. As with many of the projects thus far, my teacher took over the difficult parts and began to set the stone and then polish. It is always fascinating to watch him work as it always seems so effortless and smooth. Deceptively so, I'm afraid, because when I attempt the same moves, they are awkward in my novice hands.  As I watched the brushes, with their many bristles turning in a blur around the piece, being pushed up against them, I was reminded of walking through the crowded Istiklal and how the bumping and scraping also smooths a person over. Makes you number... more easy going, maybe. The polishing wheel seemed a good metaphor for how we are changed and shaped by the people we encounter.




Once that project was done, I was eager to find out what the next one would be. My teacher announced that I would be working on soldering that day- 'kaynak' (not to be confused with 'kaymak' (clotted cream), as I recently did in an attempt to speak quickly (I must just have it on the brain!)). I couldn't have been more excited, because it is a fundamental skill in metalsmithing and a lot trickier than it looks. Over the months that I've been in the class, I've had a chance to solder here and there, but have never felt quite confident that I could do it completely independently. This was part of my drive to get a torch at home- so that I could practice this crucial skill. My teacher solders differently than I had previously learned to solder in other classes. I found out from a jewelry book, that this technique is called "solder feeding"  and involves heating the piece and then bringing a long strip of solder into the flame and then onto the seam. More solder is applied on the spot, as needed. In other classes, solder was always cut into "paillettes," placed on the area that would be soldered, "sweated" by heating it slightly, and then heated again with the piece that was to be joined to it. The technique my current teacher uses is a lot faster and less tedious, but takes a lot of skill and practice.

For my first exercise in soldering, my teacher asked me to cut a small strip of silver, about a cm wide. He demonstrated how to first cut a slit into it with the handsaw, then how to file the slit down on each side, so that it looked like a 'v' if you looked at the indentation from the side. From there, he bent the strip at the joint (the filing makes the two parts fit together perfectly) and soldered it together. After observing the process one more time, I attempted it myself. The final result would be a square shaped bezel.

Cutting and filing were not a problem. Then, came the soldering. I calmly took the torch, tucked the tube in between my legs under the leather workstation cover, rested it with the knob between my thumb and index finger, like I'd observed my teacher doing, and started to light it. I'm not afraid of the flame or jumpy around it, which is good. Sometimes, the hissing of the gas coming from the torch before you light it has an urgency to it- like you need to light it right away or it will make a huge ball of fire once you do light it. I've learned through repeated lighting, though, that it's best to stay calm and composed, because nothing really changes with a few seconds more or or a few less. After lighting the torch, I heated the piece. I had the solder fluxed and ready to feed to the mouth of the seam. When I picked it up with the tweezers and put it to the flame, however, it melted and receded at an alarming rate, like a scared turtle tucking its head back in its shell, so that the tip of the solder, which I had intended to place on the seam, was always shorter than I needed to reach the metal. I felt like Tantalus, hungry and trying to reach for the fruit, only to have it move out of my reach each time I grabbed for it. The solder finally receded into a ball at the end of my tweezer (way more than I needed). I plopped it down on the joint and it flowed, covering the seam.

"Dik, dik," guided my teacher. When I looked perplexed, someone came up with the English word: "Vertical, vertical!" I had been leading my solder in frontal face to face combat with the seam, when what was needed was actually a sneak attack from above. That's how I tried it the next time. Still, the solder receded too quickly and it struck me just how important the timing was in this process. "Relax. No paneek!" my teacher encouraged cheerfully. He then demonstrated how to make a simple heart with the same technique of making a pointed joint and soldering it, and class ended while I was in the process of doing the same.

Exercises in soldering

Daisy ring from about a month ago.



Leaving class, my teacher, another student, and I got a ride from our friend, the calligraphy teacher. I let him know that I'd been taking Turkish classes. I also told him that I'd been practicing my Turkish in jewelry class with my teacher. My teacher will often say a series of words and have me repeat them. I'm never sure what I'm actually saying, and sometimes others in the class will wave it off, saying "sokak Türkçesi" (street Turkish). Sometimes, though, he tries to drill into me through repetition, words that are also waved off by my classmates as being from Ottoman times- "Osmanlı Türkçesi"-  and useless in daily life, like and ELL learning old English.

To show what he'd been teaching me to the calligraphy teacher, my teacher started having me repeat words in the car. I said, "sokak Türkçesi mi?" asking if what he was teaching me was street Turkish. "No! No!" he said, "Sokak Türkçesi yok!" "Ahh, Orman Türkçesi," I said. I had meant to say "Osmanlı Türkçesi," but once again got tripped up in one little letter and had actually asked if he was speaking "forest Turkish." The calligraphy teacher started laughing and corrected me. "Osmanlı Türkçesi" is "Me Tarzan, you Jane," he said so that I would understand. I cracked up. It's true that the mistakes you make when first learning a language can be hilarious. They dropped me off at Tophane and I walked lightly all the way home, dreaming of future soldering endeavors and a future jewelry home-studio.

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